Wood Knobs at The Brass Knob!

Our name doesn’t tell the whole story. You can find all manner of brass knobs here, of course, but we’ve also got them in bronze, porcelain, ceramic, glass—and wood.

Top row, l-r: standard shape; drum shape; and and unusual knob shape that received a patent. Bottom row, l-r: drum shape, drum with a domed top; and ball shape.

Top row, l-r: standard shape; drum shape; and and unusual knob shape that received a patent. Bottom row, l-r: drum shape, drum with a domed top; and ball shape.

Wood is perhaps the least known—and used—material for knobs, but it’s certainly the oldest. These types of knobs enjoyed a boom in the late 19th century in particular, according to our Doorknob Collector newsletter, when the Ornamental Knob Co. started pressing new patterns into the wooden knobs, making it much easier to produce and sell creative designs.

Do you have a wood banister in your home that’s been worn perfectly smooth through years of hands running up and down its surface? That’s the beauty of a well-aged wooden door knob—it feels smooth, soft and warm in your hand. And because it’s so unusual to see in today’s homes, it’s sure to draw attention.

different woods

The next time you’re on the hunt for interesting door knobs or hardware, come take a look at all the shapes, sizes and patterns that line our shelves.

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Incorporating Antique Elements into Design

I’ve gotten to know a lot of creative people in this business, who shop The Brass Knob for antique architectural elements and incorporate them into something entirely new. One of the best is my dear friend Barry Remley, who owns the fittingly named Salvations Architectural Furnishings.

She was kind enough to send along her thoughts:

Many of my most favorite things in my house—as well as many, many Salvations pieces—started at The Brass Knob! Her shop and all the interesting things in it was the inspiration for the beginning of Salvations—we bought all the raw materials for (my late husband) George’s office there…and that was the beginning!

Ever since then—nearly 30 years ago—she’s been one of my best customers, and I love watching her transform these elements into her exquisite tables and consoles.

She’ll take lengths of iron roof cresting, for example, and turn them into this:


All photography by Jay Mallin, courtesy of Barry Remley

The coffee table above uses cresting pieces from a Victorian home, which would have had a Mansard roof. The rooftop, surrounded by the cresting, was sometimes called a Widow’s Walk, because women would go up there looking out to sea, waiting for their husbands to come home.

Barry also buys lots of heating grates and floor and wall registers. The artisans in her Silver Spring shop apply beautiful finishes to them before they become table tops, which get covered with glass:



Sometimes, the grate will become a secondary level beneath the glass, as you can see here. (The glass hasn’t been inserted yet.)


Barry also purchases shelf brackets to use as ornaments in her furnishings, such as this Viet Console:


These brackets date to about 1890, and were used to support shelves or sinks. But I think they look so much more handsome in this setting.

And then there are the humble drain covers, which again, Barry uses to gorgeous effect in this occasional table:


Just look at the detail in this ironwork, which gets its due now that Barry’s applied a beautiful gold-bronze finish to it:


Barry also uses ceiling grilles as tabletops, which seem downright contemporary when washed in a black finish:


Here’s a better look at this grille:


I hope you’ll bring your imagination when you stop by our shop in Adams Morgan—the possibilities for these beautiful relics go so far beyond their original intended use.

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33rd Anniversary Sale at The Brass Knob

We can’t believe it’s been 33 years! Come help us celebrate during a sale that starts on Friday , Feb. 13 and lasts until March 1.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 8.05.03 AM

Come browse our huge collection of architectural antiques and other curiosities that fill our Adams Morgan row house from floor to ceiling:


For a sneak peek, click these links to see some of our inventory:





Stained Glass

Garden Ornaments

We look forward to seeing you soon — and don’t forget to mention this coupon for an extra 5 percent off any one item.

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Architectural Terra Cotta

Mention the term “terra cotta,” and we’ll wager that your mind automatically goes toward tile, either the floor or roof variety. But in truth, terra cotta was used to create decorative architectural elements between the late 19th century and the 1930s, especially within the Chicago School and Beaux Arts architectural genres. The pressed, molded and fired clay was popular for a long time because it was a lightweight substitute for stone.

That’s probably why you see so much of it as ornamentation on the earliest tall buildings. Some of the more flamboyant examples include Denver’s historic Paramount Theater,


the Alwyn Court building in New York,


and Louis Sullivan’s Prudential building in Buffalo.

You don’t see much of that going on in 21st century architecture, but we’ve got several terra cotta reminders from the past, right here in our store.

art deco building frieze fragment

Art Deco building frieze fragment


Building facade fragment

Building facade fragment

Some would make great garden ornaments—colorful sentries on a bed of ground cover, perhaps, or a post among flowers.

Terra Cotta roof finial

Terra Cotta roof finial

Terra cotta chimney pot

Terra cotta chimney pot

Roof gable

Roof gable

These fine finials could function a beautiful book ends:

Terra cotta facade finials

Terra cotta facade finials

And this gilded cornice fragment could take pride of place in a shelving display, or crown a doorway:

Building cornice fragment

Building cornice fragment

Drop by our shop in Adams Morgan and take a look at these examples of architectural terra cotta—and the thousands of other curiosities that fill our shelves.

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On Trend: Vintage Soap Dishes

Happy New Year! We were thrilled to see that the hugely popular blog, Remodelista, included vintage soap dishes in its New Year’s roundup of trends on the horizon for 2015. “It’s not a trend yet,” the post said, “but we hope it catches on.” The photo included with the post showed soap dishes from a source in Paris—but we’ve got them right here at home:











Some of our customers are already clued in to this trend: The following soap dishes have already sold (the final image in this group is a sponge holder, but works well for either purpose):



One of our customers has already caught on to this trend -- this vintage beauty just sold.

The fixture above the soap dish is designed to hold a cup.


Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.08.22 AM

Nothing gives a room instant warmth and personality than the addition of vintage elements, which take the edge off everything shiny and new that surround them. This is especially true when you talk bathroom hardware and accessories, since bathrooms tend to get cold with all their hard surfaces.

Here are some other examples of vintage bath accessories currently in stock, including towel bars, toilet-roll holders, cup holders, robe hooks, lighting—even a complete shower system!

We don't normally stock plumbing supplies, but this needlehead shower head, with drain pan and shower curtain frame, was too good to pass up.

We don’t normally stock plumbing supplies, but this needlehead shower head, with drain pan and shower curtain frame, was too good to pass up.












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Vintage chrome-plated brass cup holder


The top section is a cup holder, but one of our customers who bought something similar reports that it's the perfect size to hold a liquid--soap pump bottle.

The top section is a cup holder, but one of our customers who bought something similar reports that it’s the perfect size to hold a liquid–soap pump bottle.

Check our bath accessories page for more styles and selections, and stop by soon to see them yourself!

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Happy Holidays

We at The Brass Knob send you the warmest of holiday wishes and a wonderful new year.  We hope you’ll stop in to see our Brass Knob Christmas tree, and all the other vintage hardware and other architectural elements that fill our Adams Morgan shop.

christmas tree

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Firebacks: Not Just for the Fireplace

Back in the days before furnaces, when fireplaces were necessary to heat the whole house, the fireback was a common feature: Thick, cast-iron panels (want to know more about cast iron? See our post on the topic, right here), often crafted with intricate, decorative patterns, were placed on the back wall of the fireplace to protect the wall from too much heat, and also to absorb and radiate the heat back into the room, even when the fire was extinguished.

Here’s a classic example, from our showroom of antique architectural elements in Adams Morgan.


These days, we don’t need to rely so much on the fireback technology. But these decorative panels have all kinds of beautiful uses. A quick check on Houzz reveals many of the possibilities, most often as a stove backing, and also as wall decoration—inside or outside:

Other possibilities include using a fireback as an accent on a coffee table, perhaps underneath the surface as a bottom shelf, or as the top surface underneath glass;

You could use the panels in the center of a custom headboard;

As a feature in custom shelving;

Or, hearkening back to the old days, as a lovely summer firescreen.

Here’s a selection of what we’ve got on hand, so you can start imagining how these beautiful firebacks would look in your own home:








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Raise a Glass for Small-Biz Saturday

We at the Brass Knob, along with our neighbors up and down 18th Street, are gearing up for Small Business Saturday, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving where those who are weary of Black-Friday big-box shopping can go at an easier pace (and get better stuff!) at independent boutiques.

sbs-2014-logoWe’ll be serving coffee and cookies in the morning, and wine and cider will come out in the afternoon while the old-time string band, The New Southern Cowtippers, will be playing from 1-4 pm. Browse our inventory of classic antique knobs (naturally) along with other vintage hardware, lighting, architectural elements—even stained glass.

We’re offering 10-percent discounts off hardware, and 20 percent off everything else. 

Even as we write this, renowned muralist Aniekan Udolfia is painting a mural at 2423 18th Street NW to celebrate the local businesses here in Adams Morgan. You can see the finished result by next Saturday.

“Supporting local Adams Morgan businesses is a great alternative to the push and shove of Black Friday,” says Kristen Barden, executive director of the Adams Morgan Partnership BID. We heartily agree.

Here’s the full schedule of what you’ll find here. We hope to see you soon!

Toro Mata (handcrafted home furnishings, decorating accessories, art & jewelry
2410 18th St NW (202) 232-3890
Complimentary wine, 20% off all alpaca apparel, and music from the Moore & Zook piano and string guitar duo. Savana Moore on piano and T. A. Zook on nylon-string guitar.

Brass Knob (architectural salvage/lighting)
2311 18th St, NW (202) 332 3370
Complimentary wine and cider. Old time string band, The New Southern Cowtippers from 1-4 pm – 10% of hardware, 20% off everything else.

Skynear Designs (modern furnishings, fashion and fine art)
2122 18th St NW (202) 797-7160
Complimentary wine, free $60 Britto art book with purchases, 10% off everything.

Cafe Diem (cozy, hidden coffee shop pop-up)
1800 Wyoming, NW (202) 750 1125
25% off purchases with receipt from another Adams Morgan small business

Meeps (vintage clothing)
2104 18th St. NW (202) 265 6546
20% off all vintage clothing

Mintwood Place Restaurant
1813 Columbia Rd NW 202.234.6732
Cider cocktails, one cold & one hot: Grahampa’s Apple Rye: $8 – Rye whisky, Apple Cider, Port and Maple. Grandma’s Caramel Orange Hot Cider $8.

Lunar Massage
1768 Columbia Rd NW. 2nd Fl 202 560 3575
25% off gift card purchases

Tryst (neighborhood coffee shop)
2459 18th Street, NW (202) 232 5500
$2 hot cider infused with tea

The Diner (need we say more?)
2453 18th St. NW (202) -232-8800
$2 hot chocolate with marshmallows. Mmmmmm.

Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market and Cafe
1781 Florida Avenue, NW (202) 558 5224
15% off gift baskets filled with Pleasant Pop goodies

Idle Time Books (used, rare and out of print books)
2467 18th Street, NW (202) 232-4774

Smash (punk, indie and alternative rock and roll CD’s, LP’s and 7″s as well as Vintage and Indie Designer fashions)
2314 18th ST NW (202) 986-7370

The Wise Owl Club (men’s barber shop)
2010 18th St NW, (202) 705-9425

Enchanted Nails Salon
2324 18th St, NW (202) 652-1151
Free sea salt scrub with any manicure or pedicure

Tienda Santa Rosa (family clothing store)
1748 Columbia Road, NW (202) 986 7370
30% off shirts, suits, coats and men’s jeans. 10% off women´s dresses

Fleet Feet (specialty running store)
1841 Columbia Rd. NW (202) 387 3888
10-40% off select items.

Perrys (traditional Japanese cuisine and sushi)
1811 Columbia Rd NW 202.234.6218
$5 hot mulled winter spice cider with bourbon, or $3 without.

Violet (women’s clothing and accessories and personal styling)
2439 18th Street, NW 202-621-9225
(202) 621-9225

Commonwealth (specialty select boutique for street fashion and sportswear brands that influence and inspire)
1781 Florida Ave NW, (202) 265-1155

And Beige (the new neutral in home furnishings)
1781 Florida Ave NW, (202) 234-1557

City Bikes (fueling the DC cycling scene since 1988)
2501 Champlain St NW, (202) 265-1564

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Wrought vs. Cast: Ironing out the Differences (And Don’t Forget Steel!)

When it comes to antique and vintage ironwork, all metal isn’t created equal. And in some cases, decorative “ironwork” isn’t iron at all. Confused yet?

It’s a perennial topic that bears repeating. We first addressed wrought vs. cast iron in a blog post last year, but the questions keep coming. So in case you missed it, let’s review some lovely pieces from our inventory of hardware, lighting and sculpture as the means for a quick primer—and this time, we’ve added steel into the mix.

Wrought Iron:

Another way of saying “worked by hand,” wrought iron is heated so it becomes pliable enough to hammer, twist, stretch and bend into shapes. The type of iron required to be easily forged or welded is non-corrosive, so it works well when used outdoors.

Wrought iron grille

Wrought iron grille


Wrought iron door hardware

Wrought iron door hardware


Cast Iron:

Cast iron is headed to a liquid state, then poured into decorative molds to create shapes, patterns and objects of any kind, depending on the skill of the pattern maker. Highly decorative ironwork is most likely produced using cast iron. The types of ores used for cast iron are typically lower quality than wrought iron, because they are melted. As such, pieces manufactured with these ores are best used for interior spaces.  Although high quality cast iron is still often seen as exterior ornament and security, as well as in some exterior lighting.

Cast iron grille

Cast iron grille


Cast iron interior door hardware

Cast iron interior door hardware


Cast iron scone hardware

Cast iron sconce hardware



Steel is an alloy of carbon and iron, and iron’s natural impurities are removed during the manufacturing process, making the resulting steel extremely strong and hard. (This is why most high-quality knives are made from steel.) These days, steel is more readily available for metalwork than wrought iron, yet it corrodes much quicker, so, like some cast iron, you’ll find it more often used for interior application.

Steel door hardware

Steel door hardware


Steel sconce

Steel sconce


Steel wall sculpture

Steel wall sculpture

If you have any questions about steel, or cast vs. wrought iron, don’t hesitate to stop in to our Adams Morgan row house, where we can show you dozens of examples in person. Before long, you’ll be your own expert.

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We’ve Gone Mid-Century Mod with Sciolari

Chances are, if you’re in to mid-century design and have scoured images of statement-making chandeliers from that era, you’ve seen the work of Gaetano Sciolari. A quick browse on houzz shows us how his designs, from the 1950s – 70s, inspire everything around them.

Well, guess what? We’ve snagged one of these beauties for The Brass Knob’s vintage chandelier collection:

We are best known for architectural antiques dating before 1940, but our focus is always on great design. So when we see a piece that’s more contemporary, but which has the power to light up an interior (pun intended!), we grab it.

In this case, we were also intrigued with Sciolari’s story. Gaetano Sciolari was the child of an Italian family that had been in the lighting business since 1892, according to this biography—practically since electricity was invented. Gaetano started designing on his own for the Italian manufacturer Stilnovo in the 1950s. His work—using spherical bulbs, mixing brass and chrome, satin and polished metal—was the perfect precursor of the Disco-drenched 1970s, which is about when the chandelier we’ve got was made.

Come check it out in person (if it’s still here), and while you’re here, peruse our two floors of antique and vintage lighting, hardware, fireplace mantels, tile, garden ornaments, ironwork and stained glass. You’ll never know what you’ll find (and sometimes neither do we!).

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